Meet Michigan native Jordan Riske equestrian champion and cancer survivor

Published: Jan. 19, 2023 at 4:33 PM EST
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LANSING, Mich. (WILX) - Jordan Riske, 20, always knew she’d be an equestrian. She also knew she was destined for greatness.

Growing up on her parents’ horse farm, Riske was around horses as early as she can remember. She was practically born on a horse.

“When my mom was pregnant she rode horses so basically I’ve been riding my whole life,” said Riske.

Riske even got her first pony, Tinker Bell, at just 2 years old.

On the farm, Riske learned everything there is to know about horses and sheep. She started off showing sheep before moving onto horses. She eventually sold her sheep to purchase her very own horse, a beautiful brown thoroughbred named Redemption Song, Breezy for short.

That’s when her horse career started to pick up. The teenage equestrian proved to be incredibly skilled, quickly moving up levels in competition. In 2019 she decided to graduate high school early to focus on her training.

In the Winter of 2021, Riske went to South Carolina to train when she came down with a cold. “There was like a swollen lymph node in my neck and I was like yeah it’s fine, I’m just fighting something off.”

Riske took notice but didn’t give the swollen lymph node much attention as she was still recovering from feeling under the weather. However, later that summer Riske found a small bump on her neck. She knew something wasn’t right.

A close family friend who worked in the medical field advised the teenager to get it checked out. Initial blood tests came back clean. Just to be safe, Riske saw an ear nose, and throat doctor who requested further testing.

That’s when she got the news.

“I got a call from my doctor and he say hey Jordan you know I have some not-so-good news,” said Riske. " We ended up finding a mass right behind my nose.”

At just 19, Riske was diagnosed with Nasopharyngeal, squamous cell carcinoma, cancer that typically impacts older men with a history of heavy smoking.

Doctors recommended Riske undergo treatment immediately to prevent further spread. Riske’s response? Not so fast. After spending 12-hour days training, Riske was determined to finish what she trained for before starting treatment.

The duo finished their event strong. “It was really good, I moved her up a level and she was amazing and I cannot thank her enough.”

Riske started treatment after a successful competition season. She knew it would be challenging but she was determined to push through. “I was like, you know I can do this. It’s going to be hard for sure,” said Riske. “It was hard. But I was like I’m going to get through it.”

Riske did get through it. After rounds of grueling chemo and radiation therapy, she went into remission. She was now cancer free.

Today, Riske and Breezy train in Ocala Florida during the winter months. The two will head back to Michigan in the spring.

She’s accomplished a lot in her 20 years and she has no plans on stopping anytime soon. Looking forward, she has big plans that nothing, not even her biggest challenges, can keep her from accomplishing.

“You just have to live your life and you can’t let things hold you back,” said Riske. “If you have dreams and goals in your life you just have to go for them.”

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